Duncan's first year

Arne “Duncan carves deep mark on policy” in his first year as Education secretary, writes Education Week. A lot of people aren’t happy.

“My report card is that he gets an A for being effective and a D-minus for the bad ideas,” said the education historian Diane Ravitch, who co-writes the Bridging Differences blog on Education Week’s Web site.

She sees the administration’s agenda as too focused on standardized testing of students and joins others in criticizing its priorities as an extension of President George W. Bush’s policies.

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  1. That’s the worst possible combination: a good implementer with bad ideas. Oy.

  2. Duncan’s ideas are good.

    He’s standing up to the union, the most powerful impediment to change and consequently, progress.

    He insists that teacher pay be linked to performance.

    He supports charter schools and competition and he’s for evaluation based more on results than process, process being “good intentions” or simply “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

    Duncan is applying the free market business model for education.

    Liberals don’t like that because it sounds too much capitalism. Conservatives are against him because he was appointed by Obama.

    Good ideas often seem like bad ones from stale perspective.

    I give his ideas an A and also an A for his courage to ruffle some musty feathers.

  3. Most union teachers already work like the dickens. Ergo, incentivizing them to work hard is dumb policy. Laziness is not the reason we lag. To Duncan: it’s the curriculum, stupid. Take a minute from your busy schedule to see how India and Ireland produce so many sharp graduates.

  4. Ahh the magical free market. It has brought us such wonderful things such as the manufactured California energy crisis, 45 million Americans with no healthcare insurance, millions of lost jobs and millions of foreclosed homes.

    But by all means, let’s allow the man who did so poorly with Chicago public schools to continue wrecking the American public school system, in the name of the free market.

  5. Mike, it wasn’t the unregulated free market that created the energy problems or the foreclosures and their impact on the banking world; thank government meddling. In the politicians’ quest for “green” energy and the equality of outcomes according to race/ethnicity in the housing market, they closed off energy sources and pushed banks to make risky loans (or face discrimination charges). As far as the health insurance is concerned, your figure of 45 million includes those who could afford insurance and choose not to buy it, those who are temporarily without, those who qualify for Medicaid and have not applied and a large number (I’ve heard 11-12 million) illegal immigrants. The cost of insurance is driven upwards by government regulation – state mandates of what must be covered, no tort reform, no tax equalization between employer- and self-provided insurance and the inability to buy insurance across state lines, just as a start.

  6. Robert: i can’t say I’ve followed Duncan closely. Your list looks very good to me though. If you’re correct, I’m surprised that Diane Ravitch gave him a bad grade for ideas, because she usually makes sense to me.

    Ben F: Sure most teachers work hard, just like most of us in the private sector. My problem with the union is that they protect the incompetent teachers. Tenure demotivates in many ways.

    Mike in Texas: Momof4 is right on. When people say they want “free markets,” it’s short-hand for intelligent, minimal regulation. Which is exactly what we don’t have in the world of education. Methinks you’re being disingenuous.

  7. Dave:

    Conservatives rarely acknowledge one very valuable upside of tenure: freedom of speech. I get to verbally challenge my superintendent’s policies fearlessly (though I cannot disobey them). How many employees in the private sector can do this? I believe this is really salutary for the organization. It seems to me that many workers in the private realm are de facto serfs. Sure they have the freedom to leave –and serve as serf to another corporate lord.

  8. Sorry but I disagree, “free market” is corporate slang for let’s stick it to the masses.

    Does Enron ring a bell for any of you?

    Ever heard of a credit default swap?

    How about “rescission”?

    Are you familiar with outsourcing and overseas tax havens?

    THAT’S the kind of wonderful things this crowd has brought to our country, and now wish to spring upon our children.